WHETHER it was serendipity or dogged work by the manager, Blyth Spartans FC were grateful for the defensive cover they had at their disposal on Saturday.
Manager Mick Tait signed centre back Alan White the day before the home Blue Square Bet North fixture against Eastwood Town.
The ex-Darlington, Luton and Gateshead player was called into action after the interval following Wayne Buchanan having to be substituted with a cut below the eyebrow which required seven stitches.
With no defensive options in recent weeks, White’s availability helped Spartans keep a clean sheet against free-scoring Eastwood and to secure a home point.
“We’ve been winning away recently so a point at home is not too bad – although that’s the opposite way to which it normally works,” said Tait.
“It’s easy to get greedy and think you deserve to win every game, but football isn’t like that.
“It was a tough game for us dealing with certain aspects of their play – the physicality, long throws and set pieces, but once we’d sorted out the throws early in the game we were better and they didn’t threaten us from open play expect for balls into the penalty box.”
Tait’s side failed to find the harmony which has been a feature of recent performances, and a sticky pitch did not help.
“It was a bit disappointing that we couldn’t play the football we wanted to because of the conditions, but we plugged away trying to do the right things,” Tait added.
The first half was fairly even but Blyth’s Nicky Deverdics caused problems for the Eastwood defence on several occasions.
Coming on for the second period White was soon in the action blocking a fierce goal bound shot.
Eastwood’s height in the home penalty box was a worrying threat and necessitated Blyth goalkeeper Dan Lowson into employing some different tactics.
The keeper missed some crosses and dropped the ball once. Although, at other times, catching the ball, including his now trademark one handed collection, with assured effectiveness.
“Dan was coming for some crosses early as we tried to deal with Eastwood’s power in the air,” said Tait.
“He was trying to put them off and take them by surprise.”
White was not the only signing Tait made on Friday.
Nineteen-year-old Josh Gray joined on a month’s loan from Darlington.
He replaced Deverdics with ten minutes remaining – the midfielder who had starred in the game was suffering from a tight hamstring.
Gray made an immediate impact, turning strongly and showing determinedness and pace in running with the ball.
He was unlucky not to have won the game in the final minute with a rising shot over the bar from 16 yards.
Tait knows the South Shields born player from their time together at Darlington’s Centre for Excellence.
“Josh has a good left foot and can play as a pure forward or, where he replaced Nicky on Saturday, just behind Paul Brayson, said Tait.
“His ability to run with the ball is something we need.
“We have lots of good players at the club but not so many with that kind of pace to run at defences.
“Teams will get used to how we play so Josh will give us something a bit different.”
The Blyth boss explained what had happened with 15 minutes remaining when he substituted right winger Liam O’Mahoney with Robbie Dale.
O’Mahoney went straight to the dressing room – with Tait hastily following him from the technical area.
“I asked Liam what the matter was and he said he was frustrated with his own performance and was struggling with the bounce of the ball on the churned up surface.
“I told him to get back out because the crowd would want to applaud him for his efforts.
“He replied that he couldn’t do that. It took a big man to go back out but after a few minutes he did and the supporters did indeed applaud him and he received some nice comments.”
Blyth are at home to Hinckley on Saturday before Redditch visit the following Tuesday (February 22).
The club are reducing admission costs for the Redditch game to £5 and £3.
Then on February 26 Blyth host Gateshead in an FA Trophy quarter-final.